The Swedish government is the primary funder of research at academic institutions. Other important funders include Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, municipalities and county councils as well as the EU.
The research at Swedish higher education institutions is mainly government funded, via in particular so-called basic funding or faculty funding, which consists of tax money that is channelled directly from the Government to the higher education institutions for research and PhD programmes. In 2015, the total amount distributed this way was SEK 16.6 billion.
Since 2009, twenty per cent of the basic funding is allocated based partly on the amount of external funding the researchers have been granted and partly on their publication and citation levels. Slightly less than half of the external funding comes from the Swedish Research Council, Formas and Forte, as well as Vinnova and other research-funding government agencies. These funds, too, are tax money allocated from the Government’s budget, SEK 9.9 billion for 2015.
The rest of the external research funding comes from non-government sources, such as public or private research foundations (for example Riksbankens Jubileumsfond), municipalities and county councils, the EU and other international actors, non-profit and for-profit organisations as well as corporate actors. Almost one-third of the academic institutions’ total research funding consists of this type of external funding.
The peer review system may give women a disadvantage
The established model for allocating external funding is called peer review. With this model, which is also used when recruiting new staff and assessing manuscripts for publication in journals, a group of researchers who are considered able to represent the research field assess the quality of the submitted research proposals. The subsequent decisions about who is granted funding and who is not are based on this assessment.
Although peer review is generally considered the best available model, research has shown that it is far from objective or neutral. The reviewers’ definitions and understanding of quality depends on disciplinary background, bias and many other mechanisms. This may be disadvantageous to both women and critical and interdisciplinary research in general, according to Fredrik Bondestam and Louise Grip’s research review Fördelning eller förfördelning? (2015) from the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research.
New model for research funding
Starting in 2019, a new model has been proposed for the allocation of funding to Swedish higher education institutions. With the proposed model, an expert panel would assess three aspects of the research: scientific/artistic quality, quality-developing factors and the impact of the research outside academia. Gender equality is included as one of five items under quality-developing factors. Scientific/artistic quality would determine 70 per cent of the total score and the other two categories would contribute 15 per cent each.